The inevitable is happening to the #MeToo movement
Anger-driven social movements do not moderate themselves, but they all eventually run into obstacles and begin to decline. #MeToo may be entering a new phase as stories like this proliferate.
The #MeToo movement has been very, very good to California assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, providing a national profile for the ambitious solon:
In December, when Time magazine announced that "Silence Breakers" who spoke out against sexual harassment were its Persons of the Year, Garcia's face was prominently included in the art accompanying the cover story.
She has not been shy about grabbing the spotlight as the frenzy has built:
No one should have to wait for an investigative article to know the truth about the kind of environment they work in. I'm working with @SEIU1000 on a bill to create a centralized mechanism to track sexual harassment complaints in state government. https://t.co/6Ltyt8NcQP— Cristina Garcia (@AsmGarcia) January 26, 2018
Signed, sealed and delivered to @JerryBrownGov. Proud to have worked with @asmMelendez as she persisted on this essential legislation that was long overdue. Persistence has prevailed! #WeSaidEnough #TimesUp #Ab403 pic.twitter.com/ot9AMeNtzg— Cristina Garcia (@AsmGarcia) February 5, 2018
But suddenly, the hunter has become the hunted, as Carla Marinucci writes:
Daniel Fierro of Cerritos told POLITICO that in 2014, as a 25-year-old staffer to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, he was groped by Garcia, a powerful Democratic lawmaker who chairs the Legislative Women's Caucus and the Natural Resources Committee.
He said she cornered him alone after the annual Assembly softball game in Sacramento as he attempted to clean up the dugout. Fierro, who said Garcia appeared inebriated, said she began stroking his back, then squeezed his buttocks and attempted to touch his crotch before he extricated himself and quickly left.
Fierro said he never reported the incident, which occurred years before the current #MeToo movement and new whistleblower legislation to protect legislative staffers. But after he mentioned the issue last January to Calderon, his former boss, the matter was then referred to the Assembly Rules Committee, which launched an investigation.
Fierro is not the only one claiming improper advances by Garcia. A prominent Sacramento lobbyist says she also accosted him in May 2017, when she cornered him, made a graphic sexual proposal, and tried to grab his crotch at a political fundraiser. He spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals.
The lobbyist, who represents a major industry association, said that Garcia appeared to have been drinking heavily at a fundraiser hosted by Governor Jerry Brown for state [s]enator Josh Newman at the de Veres bar in Sacramento. He said he was heading out the door in part to avoid the assemblywoman – who had been increasingly "flirtatious" and had called him on a few occasions before for late[-]night drinks[,] which he repeatedly declined.
She spotted him and said, "Where are you going?" the lobbyist said. "She came back and was whispering real close and I could smell the booze and see she was pretty far gone,'' he said. "She looked at me for a second and said, "I've set a goal for myself to [f‑‑‑] you."
At that point, Garcia "stepped in front of me and reaches out and is grabbing for my crotch,'' he said. That was "the line in the sand," according to the lobbyist, and he stopped her. "I was four inches from her, eyeball to eyeball – and I said, 'That ain't gonna happen.'"
Not only is that graphic and detailed, but it comes from someone with no career incentives to make the accusation. If this were an actress, it would be believed. But do mere males deserve the presumption of truthfulness that so many women demand for their accusations of harassment?
The behavior being accused is gross and obviously related to a power dynamic favoring the solon over the lobbyist – who is paid to seek favors. Brace yourself – I know this will come as a shock – but I have heard whispers that attractive female lobbyists have been expected to use their sexual favors as a tool of their trade in decades past. The late Molly Ivins supposedly said, "If you can't take their money, drink their whiskey, [f‑‑‑] their women, and vote against 'em anyway. You don't belong in the Legislature."
The old rules in politics, as in Hollywood, saw sex-for-career-help as part of the bargain. That's why there was so much winking going on, and why there is so much chest-beating and garment-rending going on among leftish Hollywood males who used to pal around with Harvey W. and his ilk while keeping their mouths shut.
Now the rules have changed 180 degrees, and there is a fury driving the hashtag that has become almost an obsession, becoming a genuine witch (or warlock) hunt. The fact that outrageous behavior has been tolerated is itself outrageous.
I don't know whether these accusations against Garcia are true, but if they are, they are serious. They would never be tolerated in a male harassing a female.
But those whose posture is continuous outrage, and who seek out ever finer distinctions that lead to anger – complaining about the way someone looks at you, for instance – had better start chanting, "What goes around comes around" as a cautionary mantra.
I have been operating on the assumption that if the #MeToo fever doesn't break, sooner or later most people will be accused of something untoward in the realm of sexual attraction. After all, sex is one of life's primary imperatives, just behind breathing, eating, and eliminating. It is far more socially complex and difficult than the others, by definition involving another person, and it is fraught with culture-specific taboos, expectations, and imperatives that change over time.
With such a basic and strong drive, when anger and sensitivity spiral into obsession, almost anything can be sexualized and criticized. As Clarice Feldman quips, "Everyone's guilty. I've been known to kiss babies."
What one person considers an offense another might not even notice, or might regard as perfectly appropriate. We used to call gaffes in the realm of sexual attraction "boorishness" and regard the offender as someone who needs refinement.
I suspect that I am not alone in having found the etiquette of sexual attraction a baffling and troubling realm of behavior starting in junior high school. Live and learn, apologize when appropriate, refine your behavior, and grow up. We all struggle with it to one degree or another.
We're likely to see more self-righteous people exposed as failing their own tests of righteousness among the #MeToo activists. That's one of the ways social movements start to peak and decline. But don't expect it to be quick. At the most, it is the end of the beginning, and a long way from the beginning of the end.